Leadership Stories

 

Tanya Igic, Chief Executive, Choose2Reuse

Tanya is the Chief Executive and co-founder of Choose2Reuse responsible for developing and driving the business. This involves keeping a commercial focus whilst ensuring the business delivers on its social mission of reducing waste and supporting those who are marginalised and furthest from the labour market.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I have always been a very self-reliant, proactive and industrious person. Not being from the UK I have also had to learn a new language and culture, study for a teaching degree, as well as build first, a jewellery business, and subsequently Choose2Reuse. Whether through mentoring or being a supportive employer, I always try to instil a sense of worth in those with whom I work and believe that we should always encourage others and pass on what we learn something that I have always tried to do.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Choose2Reuse
Providing opportunities to people who might otherwise struggle is perhaps the most gratifying part of what I do. For example, recently an employee managed to secure a mortgage which, due to a language barrier leading to limited work, had been impossible before. We also employ a young man with autism and have given opportunities to those who have struggled to find work.

Challenges are daily, but perhaps the loss of a major client and subsequent struggle for cash flow was the worst. This forced us to rethink our strategy which has led to a much stronger business model.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
Things I’ve learnt include:

  • Using networks to source help and advice
  • Listening to people
  • Surrounding yourself with people who share your vision
  • The value of trying
  • Keeping your options open
  • Being flexible
  • Where there’s a will there’s a way. NEVER, EVER give up!
  • If you don’t ask you don’t get!

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
I find that one of the biggest issues facing leaders in Wales in 2018 is access to funding, especially for start-ups. Grants require too much administration and banks are not keen to provide short-term, lower level finance. Grants seem to be very specific and do not always meet with expectations.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?

  • My business partner, Tony Holmes, from whom I have learned the most, being a born communicator and always calm under pressure.
  • My mentor/nominator, David Williams, has given us the belief to develop our ideas and the support to achieve them.
  • Mari Thomas, a Llandilo jeweller, shows real perseverance and leadership

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Inspiring

Jenny Sims, Managing Director, Pembrokeshire FRAME

Jenny is the founder and Managing Director of Pembrokeshire Frame.  She is jointly responsible, with the Board for identifying, directing and implementing the business strategy.  With her team she plans and directs the organisation’s activities to achieve agreed targets and standards for trading performance, quality, culture and legislative adherence.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Having worked in both a long stay mental institution and run a day centre for those with and recovering from mental illness for many years.  I realised that those I was supporting saw little hope of gaining or regaining employment after periods of mental illness.

That experience changed my view of life and the needs of human beings.  I became determined to find a solution to enable people to help themselves, challenging the perception that those suffering mental ill health are unemployable, which became a life time mission.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Beyond the Boundaries?

Highlights:
Watching it grow into what it is today.
Buying the first van.
Employing first member of staff.
Buying both buildings.
Winning contracts.
Developing and an exemplar working relationship with our Local Authority.
Launching our new project.

Challenges:
Income generation.
Competition.
Getting to grips with VAT.
Managing a growing staff team.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
There are no problems – only solutions.
The importance of good communication at every level.
Honesty and open book is the best policy.
Learning the art of delegation, recognising that you cannot do it all.
The value of Social Accounting.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
Learning new ways of working together.
Having the courage to form meaningful partnerships with new partners.
Inflexibility
Austerity
Brexit – including potential loss of EU funding.
Government review of rates relief for charities.
Lack of core funding for existing projects.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
CEO of Pembrokeshire County Council has earned my respect and admiration. In times of austerity he has taken up the challenge of leading the local authority forward. He listens, is open minded, forward thinking, flexible and looks for solutions that benefit the whole community.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Honesty

Jill Smith, Founder and Operations Director, Beyond the Boundaries

Jill is founder and director of Beyond the Boundaries CIC. Based in Flintshire, her role is to promote independent living skills to young adults who live with additional needs. This is achieved though the medium of training in an active workplace – a retail hair and beauty salon.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Living with a nephew who was born with cerebral palsy and having to fight for his rights; being his advocate for the past 26 years. Ensuring he is being socially included and being offered the opportunities as his peers with job opportunities schemes, social time, and empowerment.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Beyond the Boundaries?

Highlights
Successful bid of £20,000 social investment from UnLtd Funding
£5,000 investment from Denbighshire Voluntary Council
Winning the City & Guilds Gold Medal of Excellence for Training, 2017
Winning City & Guilds UK Learner of The Year 2017 Award
Completing first 12 months of trading and increasing social impact in the community
Reaching Finals of Leading Wales Awards 2018 in ‘Leadership in Social Enterprise’ category

Challenges
Finding suitable premises
Growing the salon customer base
Fee-based student referrals from local authority Social Services and other stakeholders
Explaining the concept of Social Enterprise to stakeholders and partner groups

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?

Helpful

  • Learning to be persistent – this has developed from my experiences in working with local authorities in times of funding cuts
  • Business Networking – increased networking has strengthened my strategic alliances
  • Building up relationships with stakeholders and partners – the realisation that mutual partnerships are powerful

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
The poor transport infrastructure between North and South Wales. This creates a ‘divide’ between the greatest economic engines and social organisations of North Wales and South Wales. Collaboration and partnership working is our future, and efficient transport networks are the catalyst for building strong partnerships throughout Wales.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
Rachel Clacher. Co-founder of Moneypenny – Her success in building Moneypenny from scratch is phenomenal. She has always recognised that her staff are central to that success and she treats them accordingly – she has a clear social conscience, and that is reflected in Moneypenny’s social enterprise ‘We Mind the Gap’

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Inclusive